Tuesday, March 07, 2006

In the event of fire

About five years ago, our neighbors to the south had two small house fires, about one month apart. The first one occurred in the wee hours of the morning, and the fire trucks and ensuing commotion did not even rouse my sons or my dog. The second one occurred during the middle of the day, during the work week, when no one was home. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Our houses are close together, though, so I had some concern about our place. Plus, I have a vivid imagination and have watched a few bad movies, so a car explosion or two did come to mind.

Still, what I wondered was this: in the event of fire--assuming my loved ones were out of the house and safe-- what would I take with me?

The answer was immediate: my journals. They are handwritten, sloppy things on spiral bound notebooks, legal pads, portfolio notebooks, numbered on the cover with the ensuing dates contained within.

They are filled with the stress and heartbreak of a lifetime, pink “while you were out” messages blossoming like a wild garden from some pages because I was desperate to write something of meaning, and all I had to show for it was exhaustion and a lot of goofy phone calls. They have notes about how my older son always announced how he was going upstairs now to take a shower, every night, like a proclamation. My younger son took care of the neighbor’s cats and came home and said he realized he was spoiled, just like the cats: I don't know, maybe he had to have daily cream and salmon. My ex husband threw his coffee grounds in the parking lot one Sunday morning when we were exchanging children, like he was baptizing the asphalt. The journals say, “today is the day Dad dies.”

They are my photos, little snapshots in time.

I haven’t been writing in those journals too much lately. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I write to here, or because I’m trying to spend more time on publishable pieces, or maybe I’m just trying to connect, and not be an Emily Dickinson with snippets of pencil writing on the backs of envelopes stuffed into drawers.

Still, I have snippets of notes in my purse that that seem intensely personal. And I have my blog, and it’s available to almost anyone, anywhere.

Now, in the event of fire, assuming your loved ones are safe, what’s the first thing you’d take with you? I'm just wondering. It seems important, rather like, what would you do if you had 24 hours left to live?


Erin said...

Beth, thank you for this entry. I enjoyed it enormously! I was especially enthralled by the paragraph beginning, "They are filled with the stress and heartbreak of a lifetime..." It is very beautifully written.

Now, on to your question. Assuming my loved ones were safe, the first thing I'd take with me would be my computer (conveniently, a laptop). It holds practically everything I've written since high school and I would hate to lose it. I would miss my journals, though! And my teddy bear. Can I grab him, as well?

I lived in Pennsylvania for a few years. While there, I visited with a writing group at a local library for one or two group sessions. One of the girls in the group had just finished a writing grad program in somewhere like California and, on the day she was set to go home and had her car packed up with all of her worldly posessions (computer and journals included), her car was stolen. She had to start writing from scratch, and she described to us the scary and ultimately freeing experience was for her. I remembered this story as I read your post.

V said...

Hi Beth. First, thanks for your essay.
Now that my cat is no longer with me, I guess I would take my computer. All of my poetry, my book and 1/2, and my dissertation are on the hard drive. Plus I would miss the comments shared by many of the friends I`ve made through blogging.

Globetrotter said...

I have kept journals and diaries throughout my life, from the time I was a young girl.

Sadly, I have managed to throw every one out in the trash because the writings inside were so gut-wrenching and horrible. I simply didn't want to die and have loved ones read the writings of a tormented soul. My husband probably began the trend. We were engaged at the time and he insisted that I throw my diary into the river as a sign that I was over my past love and ready to marry him. Stupid me.

I really regret those decisions as I had some thoughts and feelings within my many journal pages that were also very uplifting and insightful.

Oh well. Enough of that.

In a fire, I'd grab my many thick photo albums and scoot. And probably the bible that we rec'd for a wedding gift. That's it.

Theresa Williams said...

Beth, I addressed the fire scenario in Erin's blog. It's almost too much for me to think about, and I can't repeat it here because I don't want to think about it anymore! I can't think of it as an abstraction; somehow thinking of it makes it too real. I'm happy for your entry; I was particularly moved by Globetrotter's comment. Wow!

Vicky said...

This is a hard one for me, Beth - and very well-written - thank you! It has raised several thoughts in my head, in no particular order - you know, I think I will be considerate and not hi-jack your blog with a long-winded comment. Take a look at my entry (in a bit - I haven't written it yet!!) I'm going to say the same to Erin.

Love, Vicky

Gannet Girl said...

Photos -- when i didn't have so many, I actually had them organzied and palces for a mad dash out in case of fire. Noww, suffice it to say, I would need a few hours.

Anonymous said...

best regards, nice info